Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip

Someone (that might have been me) had a few bites before I remembered to take a picture.

Someone (not saying that it was me) had a few bites before I remembered to take a picture. Oops.

I used to say that I didn’t like eggplant.  (Well, except fried eggplant, but who doesn’t like that?  Cold fried eggplant on a sandwich with tomato and Swiss cheese…yum.  Now I’m hungry.)

However, when I joined a CSA a few years ago, I started getting eggplant – lots of eggplant!  Suddenly, I couldn’t just say that I didn’t like eggplant.  Instead,  I had to figure out how to like it.

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So I started with fried eggplant, of course, and that led to Eggplant Parmigiana, which is fantastic.  (I highly recommend this recipe.) But I wanted to find a way to like eggplant when it wasn’t fried.

In desperation, I figured that if I put enough olive oil and herbs on it and roasted it with some garlic, it had to be good.

It was good.  It was better than good; it was fantastic.  And when I took that roasted eggplant and garlic, added cheese and smushed it all together, it became a warm dip (a bit reminiscent of a spinach artichoke dip – but better).  I loved eggplant!

Here’s the best part: You can make this ahead of time and hold it in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for a few weeks, pop it in the oven to warm and have a delightful appetizer for any company.  Even people that say they don’t like eggplant.  (It totally won over my dad.)

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip

  • 2-3 medium eggplants (I used white eggplant simply because that’s what I had in my CSA)
  • 2 heads of garlic (seriously)
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs – dried rosemary, thyme and oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 1 and ¼ cup cheese, grated (I used Gouda, but Fontina would be nice as well)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tops off the eggplants and cut in half.  Cut the tops off the heads of garlic,exposing the cloves but leaving the heads intact.  Place both in a casserole dish (you may need to use two depending on how much eggplant you’re roasting).

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Drizzle olive oil over the cut side of the eggplant and the garlic.  Make sure that the eggplant is well coated – it will soak up a lot of the oil.  Sprinkle a heavy layer of the rosemary, thyme and oregano over the eggplant.  Salt and pepper the eggplant as well.

Roast the eggplant and garlic for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the eggplant is soft and the garlic is caramelized.

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Remove the eggplant and garlic from the oven and wait until the eggplant is cool enough to handle.

Scoop out the insides of the eggplant (along with all the herbs) and the roasted cloves of garlic into a large bowl.  Mix with a large spoon or potato masher until the garlic is well distributed and there are no pieces of eggplant larger than a silver dollar.

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Add about 1 cup of the grated cheese and mix into the eggplant/garlic mixture.

Farmers market cheese is the best!

Farmers market cheese is the best!

Transfer to a small casserole dish or a pie pan.  At this point, it can be refrigerated, frozen, or eaten right away.

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If you’re planning on eating it right away, top it with the rest of the cheese and pop it back in the oven until its hot and the cheese is browned on top.

If you’ve stuck it in the fridge or freezer, do the same thing when you want to use it – top it with about a ¼ cup of cheese and bake it in a 350 degree oven until it’s bubbly and the cheese is toasty.  This takes about 25 – 30 minutes from the fridge and a bit longer from frozen.

Serve with bread, crackers or veggies for dipping.  I like it with rye or multi-grain toasts.

Apparently, everybody liked it!

Apparently, everybody liked it!

Have you ever found yourself in possession of too many vegetables that you’re not crazy about?  What did you do?  Did you end up liking the very vegetable you thought you hated? 

This post is shared at Fresh Foods Wednesday.

Salmon with Orange-Garlic Salt

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Although this will be my third year getting a CSA from Basket of Life Farm, until recently I was still very much a dabbler in the world of healthy eating.

I can now say that I’ve made some major changes to the way I approach food in my life, and because of that, I’ve lost over 30 pounds since February.  32, to be exact.  I still have a way to go, but it’s a pretty awesome start.

I used to think that because I cooked dinner most nights, and went to the farmer’s market most weekends, I ate healthy foods.  And I did, more or less, but I was also “cheating” a lot – fast food sandwiches for breakfast a couple of times a week, bread made with white flour every day, ice cream at night (more than I’d like to admit).

I got to the point where I needed to make a real change.  I was tired of feeling tired, and I truly felt like what I was eating was the problem.  I won’t pretend that I did it entirely on my own.  It took something called “The 24 Day Challenge” from a company called Advocare to kickstart this change for me, but it helped me create a structure for how I ate and how I approached food, one that I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping up with.  Yes, I’ve had days or weeks where I fall off the wagon a bit, but now I know how to get back on track.

My typical day of food now looks something like this:

  • Breakfast:  Protein (usually eggs), sometimes complex carbs (multi-grain toast), sometimes fruit (like a banana or orange).
  • Lunch:  Protein (often a chicken breast, sometimes something like tuna), veggies,  complex carbs like brown rice or sometimes quinoa or a sweet potato.
  • Dinner:  Protein (again, often chicken, sometimes pork or fish), veggies, and occasionally some complex carbs like wheat pasta.
  • Add a square or two of good chocolate before bed most nights, just in case you think I gave up everything, and throw in a couple of snacks throughout the day (like pistachios or fruit), and I’m a happy camper – 30 plus pounds lighter!

I pay attention to how I feel after I eat, and I try to stay away from lots of dairy (except for good farmer’s market cheese!), white sugar and white flour because I’ve learned that they make me feel yucky after I eat them.  Same goes for lots of coffee.

But it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my food – I absolutely do!  Today’s dinner was a great example of that.  Just fish and veggies…but tasty and satisfying.

I started with some wild-caught Alaskan salmon (each piece was about 1/3 pound).

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I seared the salmon with a little olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper (skin side up) in a hot pan to get a good sear on top, then flipped it and popped the whole pan into a 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes.  It came out perfect.  (Oh, I roasted some asparagus from the farmer’s market at the same time.  The asparagus was thin, so it took about the same amount of time.)

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While the salmon and asparagus were cooking, I made the Orange-Garlic Salt to sprinkle on top.  I took the zest of one orange, one minced clove of garlic, a handful of parsley (chopped) and a couple pinches of kosher salt and mixed them together.  So easy!

Orange salt

As soon as I sprinkled the Orange Salt on the hot salmon, I could smell the orange zest and garlic, and it almost sizzled…beautiful.

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I rounded it out with a glass of 15 Feet of Wheat beer from Trailhead Brewery, made with blueberries and honey.  I bought a growler of this beer Friday night, and boy am I glad I did!  It went perfectly with dinner tonight.

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Well, off to have a bit of good chocolate, watch some Torchwood on Netflix and go to bed.  It’s a good day.

Pizza with Garlicky Mixed Greens

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I love the farmers market, and I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic year-round market ten minutes from my house.  (Woo Countryside!) One of my farmers market issues is overbuying greens.  (As I typed that, this is what I heard in my head:  Hi, my name is Melissa and I buy too many greens…Hi, Melissa!)

They always look so beautiful and so tasty, and and I end up coming home with bags like this:

Left to right:  Swiss chard and collard greens, baby swiss chard, spinach

Left to right: Swiss chard and collard greens, baby Swiss chard, spinach

I recently read the book An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adlar.  Not a traditional cookbook, but a fantastic book about cooking and food – I highly recommend it.  The author is passionate about eating well, but also eating responsibly and not wasting.  One of the things she suggests is to cook veggies, like greens, as soon as you get home from the market.

Typically, I use a little bit of greens right away, then rest get all wilty in the fridge while I forget about them for a couple of days.  This time, I got home from the market and started cooking. And boy, am I glad I did!

I took all three bags of greens, removed the big, tough-looking stems and gave the leaves a quick chop.

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I got out my only pot that I thought would hold all the greens – a heavy enamel dutch oven-style pot.  I covered the bottom of the pot with olive oil, turned the heat on medium-low and added six cloves of garlic, sliced.

Once the garlic started to turn just slightly golden brown, I turned up the heat.  I added all the greens (it took several handfuls to transfer them to the pot), salt, pepper and a good amount of red pepper flakes. I like ’em spicy.

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Because the pot was so full, I very carefully stirred the greens around until they were all coated in the garlicky oil.  I let them go for a few more minutes, stirring a couple of times, until they cooked down to a beautifully dark green pile in the bottom of the pot.

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Yum!  Yum, yum, yum.  The smell of the garlic, the lovely dark green color with bits of red Swiss chard stems poking out here and there….awesome.

Now, these are fabulous as is – immediately after cooking, or reheated a day or two later.  But I wanted to try something different.  And I just happened to have some freshly made pizza dough in the fridge.

My favorite pizza dough recipe comes from the book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish.  It’s easy, it’s consistently good, and it make an awesome thin crust pizza.

After I stretched out the pizza dough, I added a generous amount of the cooked greens (and garlic pieces).

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I kept it simple.  On top of the greens, I added sliced fresh mozzarella and some shredded asiago cheese, just because I happened to have it on hand.  I topped it with a few shakes of red pepper flakes and popped it in the oven at 500 degrees until the crust got brown and the cheese got bubbly. I preheated the oven with my pizza stone inside to help get the bottom crust all crispy.

Before cooking...

Before cooking…

...after cooking!

…after cooking!

Pizza may, in fact, be the perfect food. And this pizza was damn near perfect, if I do say so myself (and I do!).

Do you have any tricks or tips for using all your produce before it starts wilting?  Or do you have the willpower not to buy three large bags of greens at one time?  Or both?